I always have to be the “bad guy” and discipline our kids. I punish them while my husband gets to be the fun parent. I hate it. How do I create balance so we’re both disciplining our children and enjoying them equally?
If you haven’t pointed this dynamic out to your husband, then that’s the first thing you can do. He may have no clue that this is happening, and sometimes a little awareness can help. If this is something that you’ve talked about before, then here are some other thoughts.
First, it’s your responsibility to make sure you have a balanced relationship with your children. If you feel stuck always being the “bad guy” with them and only interacting with them in a rule-based way, then you need to do more to create other types of interactions with them that nurture the relationship.
Just because you might be polarized with your husband in a “good cop – bad cop” dynamic doesn’t mean that the only way you can enjoy your kids is if he’s more of a disciplinarian. While that would be ideal, your relationship with each of your children is your responsibility.
See if you can create moments with them that are more nurturing, such as reading to them at bedtime, or talking with them at meals. They need to see that you not only have rules and expectations, but that you also have a true interest in them as individuals.
Your husband may have strengths in playfulness that complement your strengths in structure and discipline. You don’t have to fight this difference, but, instead, learn to work together. As long as he’s open to your influence with regards to discipline issues and backs you up, it can work. It’s likely he’ll also begin to see how the children benefit from structure and follow-through.
In the same way you hope he’ll benefit from your emphasis on structure and discipline, you might also see how you can accept influence from him in the area of playfulness and fun. Sometimes we take ourselves so seriously as parents that it becomes drudgery and no fun. He might have a thing or two to teach you in that department.
If he won’t accept your influence and continues to refuse to back you up and set limits with the children, then you guys will most likely need some professional help to figure out where you’re stuck. There may be reasons he’s not able to set limits with your children or even accept your influence. You both need to be on the same page so your children can respect both parenting styles and know that you’re working together for the benefit of the whole family.
These issues may extend beyond parenting and involve feelings he may have about you and your style of relating to others. He may have a strong reaction to boundaries, discipline, and expectations. His inability to address these concerns with you directly may come out sideways in the way he lets the kids off the hook to protect them from what he may perceive as an over-strict approach. It may even be that he feels he receives a similar hard line coming from you toward him?
As you can see, there could be lots of reasons you are both polarizing each other. Stay with the conversation until you can both support each other’s styles and preferences.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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